Heather Hansen

Use Your Anger to Win

I had just finished speaking to an audience of 350 people on the ways they could use advocacy skills to be on their own side, use their voices, set their boundaries and master objections.  During my hour with them I’d told them about the clients I’ve seen turn adversaries into advocates, and the power of having their clients and customers advocate for them. And I had shared the 5 Cs of Advocacy–Compassion, Connection, Creativity, Curiosity and Credibility. Now it was time for questions.

“What about anger?” 

This is why it makes sense to have a Q and A after your talks. Because he was right–what about anger? When you get into situations where you feel like you have to advocate for yourself, your ideas and your team, those situations often feel confrontational. And confrontation can lead to anger. So what about anger? How can you use anger to be a better advocate? You can use your anger to win. 

1-Feel it. Many of us, especially women, think that anger is something to avoid or deny. That won’t work. When things are unjust or unfair, it is natural and important to feel anger. Recognize it, and then move on to using it in your advocacy.

2-Use it. Anger can help us be better advocates. There are studies showing that anger makes us more rational, more analytical and more creative. When you channel your anger, you can reap the benefits of it.

3-Own it. Those same studies also show that anger is hard to sustain because it is draining and exhausting. In order to be a good advocate, you have to own your anger, and not let it own you. One of my clients learned this in a very vivid way. He was sued, it was a frivolous case, and he was angry. During his deposition he lashed out at the opposing attorney. I had tried to remind him to visualize that he was speaking to the potential jurors and not the attorney. I’d asked him to use his anger to make him more focused and more rational. Instead, he let his anger own him. No one in the room that day liked my doctor, and the jurors wouldn’t like him either. Fortunately, we filed a motion and the case was dismissed before the jurors could see that deposition.

Years later, the same doctor was sued again. I begged him to try his deposition my way this time–using his anger to make him better and not worse. I asked him to channel his anger and use it to be creative, rational and even charming in his deposition. He did, and soon after the deposition the opposing attorney dropped the case. I believe it was, in part, because he knew the jury would love the doctor.

Anger is a natural part of advocacy. When things feel unjust or unfair, we get angry. However, it’s when you take your anger and apply it to the 5 Cs of advocacy that you’re most likely to win, get justice and make things fair. Use advocacy to give your anger what it wants. 

Heather Hansen

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